Being church hurt

Being church hurt is possibly the worst kind of hurt.

For. Real.

I was very young the first time I was ever church hurt. I was condemned for what I was wearing—I said: WHAT I WAS WEARING—to church.

NOW, I wore what I had because we were poor as dirt and my parents rarely and I mean RARELY ever bought us clothes…we wore hand-me-downs or borrowed clothes from our friends—making this condemnation even worse.

A place that was supposed to show me love, showed me judgement.

A place where safety should be, showed me that I couldn’t trust.

This condemnation by others trickled over to my parents, who also begin to question my attire…even though they couldn’t afford otherwise.

Which began my issue with church…

words by “religious” folk.

I’m so glad their spiritual superiority got me on the right path.

Anyway.

Honestly, here’s what THAT all boiled down to:

I was pretty and others were jealous and tongues started wagging.

So, then I felt unpretty.

I felt that I had to not be myself at church because the green monster would attack me at any time and did MANY times over my duration there nomatter how hard I tried to blend in to the background.

What can you do when you’re a kid and attending the self righteous church of the ungodly?

Endure.

Which is what I did.

I endured tongue lashings from preacher’s kids and his wife.

Evil stares around every corner.

Hate.

Slaps in the face.

They beat me down.

I wasn’t bullied at school. 

I was bullied at church. 

And I’m not sure what hurt worse: the fact that I was completely and totally bullied by grown church folk and their bratty kids or the fact that my parents didn’t defend me for fear of upsetting those same church folk.

So, PARENTS: protect your children—even from religious do-gooders and their mean kids!!!

Moving on…the next time I was church hurt: I was 16 and in the same church I was talking about above…

We had a new youth pastor and I was SO excited. He was an outsider coming to our church, no longer a family member of the pastor. Good things were coming…I just KNEW IT!

So, there we were, in youth group…the second time we had met under the new youth pastor.

We were asked not to talk, which I wasn’t.

BUT, my friend kept shining a laser pointer in my eye (which FYI can make you go BLIND).

I looked at her and MOUTHED THE WORD “STOP”.

Mouthed it to her…didn’t SPEAK it.

But, he saw me.

He called me out…no big deal.

BUT THEN he asked his wife to take me to my parents up in the sanctuary (did I mention that I was SIXTEEN and had drove myself and TWO of my friends to church that night).

Embarrassing, but still not really a big deal—even though my friend blurted out that she was pointing the laser pointer in MY EYE!!! He still said “I said no talking and she talked”.

He was asserting his authority and using me as an example…my 16 year old self got that. I understood…no big deal.

BUT as I was walking away, with his wife, head held down in shame, he spoke these words to the whole youth group: “She’ll probably never come back…and that’s okay with me, she had to be used as an example for the rest of you”. What the???

And he was right. I never went back.

Still hurts to this day.

Why? Well, because I held out hope for him to make a difference in my life and the life of the church that I hated, but was forced to attend. I held out hope that my church experience was FINALLY—THANK GOD, about to change!

It got worse, but I was out the door as soon as I possibly could be.

The next time I was church hurt was after I was married.

I was close to the preacher’s wife.

She called one morning inviting me to breakfast with her and her husband, nothing unusual because that had become our routine.

I accepted and hung up.

A few seconds later, she called back.

She butt-dialed me…

And I heard every word she and her husband, the “preacher”, was saying about me and my husband AND NONE of it was good.

It was horrible and painful and maybe I should have hung up, but I didn’t.

I heard every word.

Those are my church hurts. Those are why I loathe religions with “dress codes”, am weary of close relationships with those in positions of authority in the church, and why I immediately hang up butt dialed phone calls, and why I will never attend a family owned and controlled church again.

The intention of this post is not to give anyone further excuses for not attending. Don’t point your finger at any of my church hurts and say “see, that’s why I don’t go”. Don’t use me as an excuse. My intention was this: church hurts happen. It’s natural. Anywhere you go, inevitably, someone you are holding to a standard will let you down…anywhere—not just church. People will fail you. Christians, yes CHRISTIANS, make mistakes. They forget their reason for being.

And while I know my church hurts are really insignificant compared to others, others who have been abused in a way they shouldn’t have, others who have had their pastors walk out on them, others who have witnessed much worse…but, it still hurt my young, impressionable self.

And guess what? I still attend church and so do my children.

I love church.

I love what church is SUPPOSED to be.

I want everyone to attend church.

But, I understand why they don’t…or won’t (see above).

You’re not supposed to be hurt there…you’re supposed to be loved there, accepted there, wanted there, renewed there, taught there…not hurt there.

You’re supposed to be able to “come as you are” without fear of judgment.

So the reason I still attend church: because I want to be a part of showing people what church is really supposed to be and I have faith in the overall goal of the church…

and you should too.

Be the difference.

Don’t give up in the institution of church—be the difference!

Make church what it is supposed to be—start with yourself.

So, if you’ve made it this far, I want you to know…

My momma says her one regret in life is ever saying anything to me or my sister about what we wore to church…her ONE regret. She says, “I should have defended you”.  She says that now, as we talk about the past without ever knowing how badly it had hurt us. That’s liberating to know, I promise you.

That youth pastor that publicly kicked me out of his class saying I would never come back later on publicly apologized to me in front of the whole church…granted it was two years later and I was too old to attend his class anymore, he still did it. God is good.

And that pastor and his wife that butt dialed me? Well, I’ve forgiven.

Amen.

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2 thoughts on “Being church hurt

  1. I also grew up in a legalistic church, so I totally get where you’re coming from. I totally separated from the way I was brought up (which was very judgmentally), but found a church where people really do love and support each other. You’re right that Christians can sometimes be the most cruel. Growing up I always felt that I wasn’t good enough, but now I realize that it wasn’t me it was them. God loves each and everyone of us. He created us each as unique individuals for a reason. I think people lose sight of that.

  2. I have no idea why I am just seeing this, but let me give you a BIG AMEN!!! Legalism is not religion and religion is not salvation! Preach it! 🙂

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